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Woman 99: 06/15/19

Woman 99

Woman 99 by Greer Macallister is historic fiction set in the San Francisco Bay Area, specifically San Francisco and Napa. Charlotte Smith feels guilty that her sister Phoebe was taken to woman's insane asylum. She decides to follow in Nellie Bly's footsteps and get herself committed so she can find and rescue her sister.

The set up for Woman 99 was like the first few chapters of Laurie R. King's Island of the Mad. But then it spends two thirds of the remainder of the book in the asylum.

The day to day monotony of Charlotte's life as "woman 99" is padded with sappy flashbacks about her romance with Henry or her remembering good and bad times with her sister.

As there isn't much detail in the way asylums were run back then, much of the present day narrative is repetitions of Charlotte's day: her meals, the pre-dawn hikes she and her inmates take, her work in the soap room, and her the weekly hosing down sessions.

Eventually she gets enough freedom to actively start looking for Phoebe. Here is where I hoped against all hope that Phoebe was a figment of her deranged imagination. Had she been, this book could have been a delightful blending of Shutter Island by Dennis Lehane (2003) and The Snake Pit by Mary Jane Ward (1946).

Instead, Phoebe is real and is at the asylum. The last third of the book is about her rescue of Phoebe, a grand escape and the consequences for what she experienced and learned at the asylum. The ending took a tangent that I wasn't expecting and actually find horrifying in its own special way.

The ending can be summed up with:

Four stars

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